Staring at a cluttered desk wondering what’s safe to throw away? You’re not alone. Most Americans hold on to far more “important documents” than they need to, winding up with a filing cabinet filled with junk. Then, when they actually need to find one of those important documents, it’s nearly impossible to find amidst all of the unnecessary clutter.
Fortunately, the list of important documents you should keep is relatively short. Of those, only a handful should to be held until the end of time. Most are fine to cycle out after a reasonable period of time.
Car Insurance Records
When it comes to car insurance, the only thing you need to keep is your most current insurance policy. Specifically, the policy declaration page is important to keep on hand to use as a reference for a coverage summary. This is typically summarized on the first page of you insurance policy, and includes:
- Your policy number
- The primary policyholder (aka the “named insured”) and any additional insured individuals
- Any excluded drivers
- Year, make, model, and VIN of the vehicles on your policy
- Your average annual mileage
- Your driving history (including traffic violations)
- Loss payees
- Deductibles, coverage, and limits
- Discounts and premiums
Your declaration page isn’t meant to explain every detail of your car insurance. Rather, it’s an easy-to-understand summary that you can reference when you have questions. If you need to dig deeper into your insurance policy, speak with your agent or call customer service.
While you should retain a copy of your car insurance declaration page, keep in mind that insurance companies are required to maintain current electronic copies of your full insurance policy. If you find yourself in a pickle and can’t locate the declaration page, the insurance provider should be able to provide you with an electronic copy. When you receive a new policy packet (typically every 6 months when the policy renews), feel free to trash the old one unless you have a pending claim.
Why Do You Need a Copy of Your Car Insurance?
A car insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurer. In return for paying your premiums, the insurer protects you from financial loss from the time the policy is issued until the policy expires. Your policy will outline what the insurance company is responsible for, what is covered, and what exclusions are in place.
When you make a claim, the insurance company will reference the policy you have in place and its terms. This is why it’s important to know what is covered and have a copy of your policy on hand — so you can review your policy benefits before making a claim. If the insurance company denies your claim, you can reference a specific policy clause when making an appeal.
When to Keep an Old Insurance Policy
The only time you should hang on to an old insurance policy is when there’s a pending claim. Property damage claims involving repairs or replacement are usually resolved quickly, but personal injury claims may take years to sort through. It takes time to understand the full extent of damages, including medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, lost income, etc. The claim will need to remain open until these damages are accounted for and settled. Whether you’re the victim or the defendant in the proceedings, you’ll want to keep a copy of your insurance documents for reference until the case concludes.
When your claim is closed or settled, hang on to the policy documents for a few more months in the rare case someone chooses to appeal the outcome. Once you’re satisfied the case is closed, send the policy documents to the shredder.
What Do Car Insurance Companies Look at In Your Records?
You’re not the only one holding onto records when it comes to car insurance policies. Your insurer will pull relevant documents when you apply for insurance, and they will continue to check your record and run reports as you remain in contract with them. It’s important to understand which documents and reports in your records apply, as your insurer will use these to determine how much to charge in premiums for your auto coverage.
Generally speaking, your rates will rely heavily on your likelihood to file a claim. The car insurance companies will look at a summary of your motor vehicle report which will include recent tickets, accidents, and convictions. Depending on the state and or car insurance company they will generally look at a motor vehicle report dating back three years for minor infractions and five to seven years for major traffic violations.
Another popular report for a car insurance provider to look at is a Claims Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.) report, which includes a seven year loss summary for the claims you’ve filed. This report allows insurance companies to communicate with one another to help each other with underwriting policies, making it easier to assess the amount of risk they are taking on by insuring you. When you apply for car insurance, they will assess your risk by reviewing your previous driving history, traffic violations (frequency and severity), convictions, claims, criminal convictions, DUI’s, and and even driving restrictions.
The Benefit of a Good Driving Record
What is considered a good driving record? A good driving record is one that is free of moving traffic violations, claims, accidents, and convictions. Car insurance with a good driving record will likely save you money because you are a low risk to the auto insurance.
What happens when you have car insurance with a bad driving record? If you have a poor driving record with several traffic violations, one or more accidents, or a criminal conviction, you are considered a high risk for auto insurance and you may have to pay a higher premium.
The good news is that the infractions on your motor vehicle record will fall off with time. For example, if the car insurance company only looks back three years you should be able to decrease your premium when the infractions fall off of your record and your policy is ready to be renewed.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.